Rules Guy: Does a ball have to be at rest in the bottom of the cup to be considered holed?

What do you do when your ball embeds in the back of the cup? Is it considered holed? Rules Guy has the answer.


The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Par 3, very wet day, my ball flew into the hole — but upon reaching the green, I saw it was, in fact, entirely buried on the back edge of the cup. The ball must have flown into the hole above the cup liner, which was set two inches below the hole’s rim. I claimed an ace, certain that the ball had entered the hole and was below the putting surface. My friend disagreed, saying it wasn’t resting in the bottom of the cup. Who’s right? —Brad Middleton, Issaquah, Wash.

Let’s clarify one thing: Starting this past January, what was called “Interpretations” are now, yes, “Clarifications.” So please see
“Clarifications: Holed/1.”

Your buddy’s argument, unlike the ground, doesn’t hold water: There are several instances covered by the Rules where the ball isn’t completely at the bottom of the cup or totally at rest and is still considered holed. You can claim an ace if (and only if) all the ball is below the the surface and embedded in the side of the hole.

Now go buy him a drink.

For more holed-ball guidance from our guru, read on …

Golfers toasting
Rules Guy: My buddy made a hole-in-one, then called a penalty on himself to avoid the bar tab. Is this legal?
By: Rules Guy

A few weeks ago, I hit a perfect slam-dunk shot on a par 3…but our club has placed 2-inch pool noodles in the holes for COVID-19 reasons, and the ball bounced out. Our club pro said it was an ace. The state golf association said it probably was, too, but not having seen it suggested I talk with my fellow players. They all agreed the ball had landed directly in the hole. Do you agree that it was a hole-in-one (with an asterisk)?—Dennis Doherty, Lexington, Ky.

Dennis, there are no pictures on the scorecard, nor asterisks, question marks or parallelograms….The USGA hasn’t changed its guidance in terms of when a ball is considered holed.

It has to be, yes, holed…or with the limited exception of it resting against the flagstick with some portion of the ball below the surface.

Otherwise, sorry, you’ve got to play on, noodle or not.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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